June 2019 marks the 52nd anniversary of Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during a war with its neighbours, and the beginning of its occupation of Palestinian territory. Today, over 600,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers are living on occupied Palestinian land and are afforded protections and benefits, of which over 4.9 million Palestinians living in the same territory do not have access to. This is the direct result of a discriminatory system of laws and policies that ensure that Palestinians are not afforded the same rights or services as Israeli settlers.
For 52 years, hundreds of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land have been appropriated and exploited by Israel. For 52 years, tens of thousands of Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), resulting in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians. The wanton destruction of property and the forcible transfer of civilians in the occupied territory are both war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Israel’s Responsibilities Under International Law
When a power assumes the occupation of a territory, it also assumes responsibility for the protection, security, and welfare of the local population in the occupied territory under international law.
Israel must respect and guarantee protections for the local Palestinian population under international humanitarian and human rights law. Generations of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have fallen victim to a discriminatory system built to repress their rights and freedoms.
For 52 years, it has been an Israeli government policy to promote the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements in the OPT. These settlements are directly linked to the mass human rights violations faced by Palestinians in the occupied territory. These violations include:
Violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination;
Violation of the right to adequate housing;
Violation of the right to liberty of movement;
Violation of the right to access to an effective remedy for acts violating fundamental rights;
Violation of the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
Violation of the right to water;
Violation of the right to education;
Violation of the right to earn a decent living through work;
Violation of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;
Violations of the right to liberty, security of the person and equal treatment before the law;
Violations of the right of the child;
Violations of the right to family life;
Violations of the right to life
The Role of the Tourism Industry in Supporting Illegal Settlements
As the Israeli government continues to pursues policies promoting the expansion of illegal settlements, it enforced a discriminatory system against Palestinians residing in the same territory, by enacting military laws to increase barriers to Palestinians in obtaining building permits, demolishing Palestinian structures for building without permits, and charging punitive costs for the demolition of homes. This has resulted in the forcible transfer and displacement of communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from their lands.
For 52 years, Israel has acted in breach of international humanitarian law through the appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits “the destruction of private or state property, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
Article 49 of the Convention also states that an occupying power is prohibited from deporting or transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. Yet, programs and financial incentives have been geared towards supporting Israeli settlers and growing illegal settlements.
Settlements and settlers linked to the tourism industry are experiencing an increase in support, as the Israeli government announced it would spend $13 million USD on excavations at the settler-managed archaeological site, the City of David. This site is located in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. The Prime Minister’s office also announced subsidies for the “establishment, conservation, and expansion” of hotels, B&Bs, and guest rooms in the settlements in the West Bank.
As Israel continues to build these programs, the country is experiencing an increase in visitors, with more than 4 million tourists recorded in 2018. This has resulted in great financial profits to both Israel and the businesses operating within the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These businesses include digital tourism companies, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor.
The US-based TripAdvisor, which recorded an average of nearly 455 million visitors per month in 2017, lists more than 70 different attractions, tours, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and rental apartments within settlements of the OPT and East Jerusalem, often mislabelling them as being part of Israel. TripAdvisor also lists tourist attractions, many of which are drivers behind some of the human rights violations of Palestinian communities in Qaryut, Jalud, and Khirbet Susiya. The listing of these sites make TripAdvisor complicit in Israel’s human rights violations of the residents of these neighborhoods.
Corporate Responsibility in Areas of Conflict
The responsibility to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law is not only the responsibility of the state – it is also the responsibility of businesses operating within the state. Companies operating in or with settlements must consider the standards relating to the protection of populations of occupied territories. In doing business with illegal Israeli settlements, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor are contributing to and profiting from the maintenance, development, and expansion of illegal settlements.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights states that companies have a responsibility to respect all internationally recognized human rights wherever they operate. Companies must avoid causing or contributing to the violations of human rights in their operations. In cases where these violations cannot be prevented, companies must refrain from operating as the only course of action. Companies that fail to withdraw from these situations may stand in direct contradiction with their own corporate standards.
Canada Must Stop Fueling Palestinian Suffering
It’s time for Canada to stop supporting Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. We want the Canadian government and Canadian businesses to stop enabling the economy that keeps these illegal settlements growing and fuels the human rights violations of Palestinians.
The forcible displacement, the confiscation of land and natural resources, the demolition of homes, property and infrastructure, and restrictions on movement continues to have a direct and devastating impact on Palestinian rights to adequate standards of living, work, housing, health and education.
Amnesty’s Destination: Occupation campaign calls on digital tourism companies to stop providing listings in illegal settlements. We call on governments around the world to take regulatory action to prevent companies such as these from doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements in line with their legal commitments.
Amnesty’s Occupation @50 campaign brings to light the more than half-century of these human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Join us in putting an end to these violations by demanding that the Canadian government ban settlement products from entering our markets, and stop companies domiciled in Canada from operating in illegal settlements.